An easy target? Types of attack on oil tankers by state actors
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Objectives Although they became vocal in May and June 2019, due to attacks taking place in the Gulf of Oman, attacks against oil tankers are a century old problem. Because of their size and the cargo tankers appear to be easy targets. The main objective of the paper is to analyze effectiveness of different modes of attacks against oil tankers that have been undertaken since widespread use of oil has begun. Methods A comparative case-study approach was adopted to evaluate the effectiveness of different modes of attacks against oil tankers over the long-term, namely, the last century. It briefly reviews destructiveness of three anti-tanker campaigns during both World Wars. Subsequently they are compared with two post-1945 sets of attacks that happened in the Persian Gulf region – the Tanker War of 1980s and the 2019 attacks. Results The scale of damages inflicted by attacks against oil tankers is varied. The experience of both World Wars shows their effectiveness. However, post-1945 events do not provide confirming evidence. The main difference is scale of hostile activities applied against tankers. Conclusions These are not characteristics of tankers that make them easy targets but political conditions (war/peace state of international system) that enable application weapons and tactics of different scale of destruction.
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